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ordinary or extraordinary, to divine efficacy; there being no other cause to which we can reasonably impute them: but in human affairs, seeing man is an understanding and free agent, and few effects happen without some act of his intervening, there can hardly occur any passage, how rare and strange soever, which our incredulous adversaries, with some kind of color or plausible shift, will not be ready to attribute unto some reach of man's wit, or to some capricio of his humor, or to some unaccountable casualty, incident to matters of this kind; (as we see the Philistines were apt to impute the plague of emerods to chance; the Israelites did presently charge that terrible judgment on Corah and his complices on Moses and Aaron.) And commonly divine and human influences on these effects (even as in nature the influences of Heaven and of inferior particular causes) are so complicated and interwoven together, that it is not so easy to distinguish the one from the other, either in whole or in part, to separate the bounds of providence ordinary and extraordinary, to discern what God performs by usual instruments, what by his immediate hand. As also the actions of the wisest men are often grounded on reasons remote from, and impenetrable by, vulgar conceit; so are the reasons of God's proceedings with men various and often mysterious; above the reach of our capacity with distinction to apprehend them as who, for instance, can oftentimes readily distinguish between God's merciful patience toward bad men, and his gracious recompensing the good; between God's just vengeance on the one sort, and his fatherly correction of the other; between his reclaiming one from vice, either as particular circumstances require, by adverse or prosperous events, and his trying or exercising the other's virtue by the like proceedings? Who can distinguish between what is performed or permitted on general or on particular accounts; in respect to the public, or in regard to private men; in relation to present times, or to posterity; on absolute and immediate accounts, or in order to some farther, more remote designs? Who, I say, can pretend skill enough to define what or how much is best to be done in these cases; when it is fit to allow men to proceed in the use of their freedom, when to interrupt them? Who, but he that exactly
knows the limits of just and fit, the qualities and tempers of men, the state and circumstances of every thing?
I add, that God's governance of things hath no complete issue here; that this is not the only nor the chief place of dispensing rewards and punishments; that things are but doing here, and not done; in a progress and tendency toward somewhat beyond, not in a state of final resolution or perfection: wherefore as we cannot fully judge of an artificial work by its first draughts, nor of a poem by some scenes, but must stay till all is finished and acted through; so we cannot so clearly discern the intire wisdom and justice of Divine dispensations here; not till that day, when, as St. Paul tells us, God's Eikatoкpiola, his righteous judgment, shall be made apparent.' Whence discourse grounded on present events may not prove so convincing or satisfactory, except unto the children of wisdom, who by a sharper sense can discover even the smaller lines and more occult tracts of God's hand; who with an especial attention and sagacity do, as the prophet expresseth it, ' regard the works of the Lord, and consider the operations of his hands.' However, the frequent occurrences in human affairs of passages, such as we mentioned, so rare and remarkable, if they do not, singly and solitarily taken, thoroughly serve to demonstrate the hypothesis of Divine providence, yet at least they do much favor and strengthen it, being very congruous thereto. Supposing such a Providence, it is most probable (I may say necessary) that such events would happen; whence there can be no absurdity in ascribing them thereto, but much of reason in doing it. They are digni vindice nodi, difficulties not otherwise easily resolved, and therefore God may be most fitly introduced, as the most probable cause of them; if strict discourse cannot compel us, yet ingenuity will incline us, and wisdom will oblige us, to do so. 'They that are wise will consider these things, and they shall understand the lovingkindness (I add, and also both the wisdom and power) of the Lord. A brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this,' saith the psalmist, concerning the procedings of Providence.
But however general providence doth work in convincing
some, particular providence will at least produce that effect in many: for I dare appeal to most men (to those especially, who have ever had any fear of God, or sense of goodness in them,) if, sometime or other, in their lives, they have not in their pressing needs and straits (especially on their addresses to God for help) found help and comfort conveyed unto them by an insensible hand; if they have not sometimes in a manner unaccountable escaped imminent dangers; if they have not in the performance of their duty and devotion toward God experienced a comfort more than ordinary; if they cannot to some events of their life aptly apply those observations of the psalmist : This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of his troubles. The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. O taste and see that the Lord is good.' O taste and see;' he appeals to experience; he supposes the Divine goodness may be seen and felt; that surely will be a most efficacious argument of God's existence and providence. And so it is indeed to all good men, for whose comfort and confirmation it is chiefly mentioned, though it is not likely to have much influence on them, who have alienated themselves from God, and driven him out of their thoughts;' except they should (beyond what can be expected from them) be so civil and candid, as to believe the testimony of others, who assert this great truth unto them from their own inward conscience and experience.
But let thus much serve, at present, for the showing that God doth, as our Lord tells us, hitherto work; and consequently that, as we thence meant to infer, God doth exist.
SUMMARY OF SERMON X.
EPHESIANS, CHAP, IV.-VERSE 6.
It has already been proved that there is one God. The following parts of our creed are now proceeded in.
The Father. This term is sometimes put absolutely or singly, referring to the first person of the blessed Trinity; but commonly it is to be understood of God essentially considered, to whom in that respect all the divine attributes agree, &c. The accounts on which God is so called first considered: next the terms or objects in relation to which he is so called: then the consideration is applied to practice.
One God and Father of all. Every attribute, title, or relation of God, grounds an obligation, and affords an inducement to good practice and obedience; but none more than that of Father; which title is on several accounts commonly given to things one of these is causality: another is sustenance or preservation; another governance, with beneficent affection and care these briefly illustrated. On all these it is plain that the title of Universal Father may truly be ascribed unto God.
1. God is the Father of all things, or of us as creatures; being the efficient cause and creator of them all he made the world, says St. Paul, and all things therein; &c. The title, Pater Omnipotens, was given to the Supreme Being by the Pagans.
2. More especially God is the Father of intellectual beings: he is styled the Father of Spirits; and the angels, by way of excellency, are called the sons of God: this topic dilated
3. God is, in a more especial manner, the Father of mankind: have we not, saith the prophet, one Father? hath not one God created us? Thus Adam is called the son of God, the genealogy of all men terminating in him: this subject enlarged on.
4. Yet farther, God is more especially the Father of all good men; such a relation being built on higher grounds and respects; for as good they have another origin from him; virtue springeth up from an heavenly seed; &c.
5. Moreover we may observe that God, when he particularly designs to contain men within bounds of duty, and thereby lead them to happiness, delights to represent himself under this endearing relation: this shown in the case of his ancient people.
6. But in the Christian dispensation, God more signally represents himself in this quality: all his performances towards us, and in our behalf, are of such a nature, and are set forth in such terms, as import this relation: for,
1. The reception of a believer into the privileges of Christianity is termed violeσía, the making him a son ; &c.
2. That renovation of our nature which the gospel requires, is called regeneration, a new birth, &c.
3. The resurrection of good Christians after death to a state of glory, is worthily styled waλıyyeveola, a being generated and born again.
4. It might be added, that Christians do become the sons of God by the intervention of our Saviour, assuming our nature, whereby he becomes the first-born of many brethren; &c.
In so many respects is God our Father, and we are his children. The consideration of which has manifold good
I. It in general may teach, and should remind us, what reverence and observance is due from us to God in equity, jus